Book: The Hunted (The Enemy, Book 6)
Author: Charlie Higson
Age Range: 12 and up
I am fascinated by Charlie Higson's The Enemy series, unable to resist reading these books. I've purchased most of the series in hardcover, and just read Book 6 (received as a review copy) within a week of the publication date. This is true despite the fact that the books are gorier than I generally prefer, and the fact that Higson has no problem killing off protagonists. In fact, he seems to rather enjoy it. I had actually considered dropping this series after the bleak ending of Book 5, but I'm glad that I didn't. Because Book 6, The Hunted, is the best of the series so far.
The Enemy series is set in and around a near-term post-apocalyptic London. A mysterious virus has infected everyone over the age of 16 - killing many adults outright, and turning the others into nearly mindless, kid-hunting, zombie-like creatures. Various pockets of children and young teens have survived, remaining in peril from the grown-ups and (sometimes) from one another. There are frequent, bloody battles with said grown-ups. No one is safe, and it's best not to get too attached to any of the characters. This is actually not that hard, because Higson doesn't go very deep with most of the characters, instead juggling a large, shifting cast.
The primary things that make this series work for me (and, I would imagine, for teens) are:
- Fast-paced suspenseful plotting. Higson clearly planned out the whole series prior to writing the books. There are flash forwards and flashbacks, and kids whose paths intersect in unexpected (but clearly long-planned) ways. Higson shifts viewpoint between characters at times, to ratchet up the suspense. These books are difficult to put down once you start reading. [I kind of want to go back someday and read all of the books in a short time, to really see how the plot threads weave together. But I'll have to wait a while, until I forget more of the details.]
- The socio-political dynamics between the kids. Different groups establish different types of communities. Some leaders are strong - others are smart. There is conflict between the groups, but also, sometimes, partnership. The world-building is fascinating.
- The underlying puzzle of where the virus came from, and how it is continuing to affect the monstrous grown-ups. These questions are addressed relatively slowly, from book to book, adding interest as well as an underlying menace.
I have previously reviewed the first two books of this series, The Enemy and The Dead. I believe that Book 7, The End, will conclude the series next year, making this a good time to start in with the series, if it sounds intriguing to you. Stop reading now if you haven't read books 1 to 5.
The Hunted primarily follows two related plot threads. A young girl named Ella has survived a grown-up attack thanks to the rescue of a mysterious, misshapen man. He takes her to a barricaded farm out in the country. Meanwhile, a small group of kids has set out from the Natural History Museum to try to find Ella, and reunite her with Sam, the brother she believes is dead. Opportunities for danger and heroism follow. While maintaining the suspense level of the earlier books, two things made The Hunted even better for me:
- More of a focus on a small group of the characters whom the reader starts to hope will specifically survive. Ed, the leader of the rescue mission, is worth rooting for, as is Ella. There's also an intriguing new character.
- More hints about and study of what caused the virus in the first place, and where things might be going in the bigger picture.
So, for fans of the series who were put off by the super-depressing ending of Book 5, don't give up. Give The Hunted a try. I think you'll enjoy it. And really, anyone who has made it this far in the series - don't you want to know what's going to happen? Who will survive, and how? I know I do. I can't wait for Book 7.
For readers with a fairly high tolerance for gore, violence, and suspense, The Enemy series is a solid pick. Book 6, The Hunted, is my favorite yet of this "can't put it down" series.
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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